Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fourth birthday party #1: the family party -- rainbows and UP!

This year, for little Max's fourth birthday he was lucky enough to have two

yes, TWO

parties. 

Talk about spoiled!!

The day started out with a surprise...birthday streamers on Max's door!  The kids LOVED it...hours of entertainment...at least until someone gets hurt (don't worry, Sam's cries were short lived)...  Here are some videos of the fun that was had (sorry for so many....I was getting such a kick out of watching them that I couldn't pare them down)....

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After all the tiring fun of running through the birthday streamers, Max had to go to 3K -- he brought the treat of the day and of course, wore our traditional birthday crown.



Max requested an UP! and Rainbow party this year....how fun, right?  So, we decided for his FIRST treat for school (he was signed up as helper of the day TWICE, so he got to bring TWO treats to school also...) to make rainbow jello.  I used THIS website for inspiration.  It was awesome!  It only uses three colors of jello -- red, yellow and blue -- the rest is an optical illusion.  Tasty, easy and the kids LOVED it.



Seriously, how cool is rainbow jello??  SO COOL.

That evening, after school and nap time, we had the FIRST of the birthday parties....
His first party, on his actual birthday, was a fairly small affair with just our close friends -- 'Grandma' Jan and 'Grandpa' Dave and Auntie Amanda and Uncle Steve.

Little Max requested 'meat on the bone' (aka ribs), corn on the cob and watermelon and grapes for his birthday feast.  We were happy to oblige.  LOL



There was also lots of wine....little Max didn't request it, but I did!!

We also made a fun rainbow balloon banner -- little Max helped me blow up the balloons -- he blew up over half of the balloons....not a small feat!!


'Grandma and Grandpa' -- our next door neighbors from the old house.  Little Max and Sam love them like their grandparents, hence the nickname.  It was so good to see these two lovebirds again -- we miss having them right next door!


The sweet birthday boy wearing the birthday crown.  I also decorated his chair -- 'the birthday chair' -- like my Mom always did for us growing up. 



The cake (#1...yes, this spoiled child also had TWO cakes).  Rainbow chip cake with rainbow chip frosting.  I piped on four balloons and added balloon candles and real balloon decorations around the base.  It was a hit...this kid loves balloons...and rainbows...

Sam likes cake too!  He had a few frosting boogers after he was done,  but he did a great job eating his cake all by himself with his fork.  Sam actually helped me make the cake while Max was at 3K...my little baker boy!

He might even have stayed cleaner than little Max, LOL.  The cake was a hit with little Max.

Yummy!

Here's an obligatory picture of me, since I am usually behind the camera.  Not the best picture, unfortunately, but the only one of me from the evening...so don't complain.

And, of course the night ended with a little bit of this.  He wouldn't be a four year old if it didn't, right??  LOL.  (He fell off his chair because he was goofing around....the good parents that we are snapped a picture of him first).

It was a good, low key and fun party to celebrate the actual DAY of birth for my little man.  I can't believe he is actually FOUR!!  I have a little video to share of him with his yearly 'interview' that I'll have to find time to upload later today.  (after I blog about birthday party #2!!)

Monday, November 21, 2011

SheSpeaks Product Review: Torani Syrups and a GIVEAWAY!


I've gotten really lucky with the types of products I've gotten to test out over the last few months.  Most all of them are some of my favorite products...and getting a full size 'sample' of something to use at home is just so awesome!
So I am super excited to share with you my latest product review.  This one is courtesy of SheSpeaks...a wonderful review forum...check them out!

You may already be familiar with Torani.  Torani syrups have over 120 flavors in regular and sugar free varieties.  They are perfect for flavored lattes, mochas, coffees, cocoas, Italian sodas, teas, lemonades, cocktails and smoothies.  Check out all the flavors and more about Torani here!

But don't stop there!  You can use these flavored syrups in so much more!!  I got to test out the Peppermint syrup and the sugar free brown sugar cinnamon flavors for SheSpeaks.  Those of you that know my obsession with peppermint mochas (in particular Caribou's Ho Ho Mint Mocha) can probably imagine the squeal of delight I had when I opened the package.  I used Torani's Peppermint syrup in baking this weekend and it was AWESOME -- peppermint cookies, peppermint brownies, peppermint frosting...the possibilities are endless!!

Yum...doesn't that look delicious?  And you can make these drinks in the comfort of your own home!!  No more driving to the coffeeshop and paying too much for a delicious drink...just sit down on your couch and enjoy it!


Those of you that are my fellow mommy friends KNOW how relaxing it is to have a great cup of coffee...so treat yourself, ladies! We deserve it!!



You also know how much I try to be and to support businesses that are into sustainability and being environmentally responsible.  So, I was really pleased to hear how much Torani is also into being environmentally responsible.  You can check out more about what they are doing to 'stay green' here.

Now, what is this 'giveaway' that I referred to in my blog post title you ask??

Torani and SheSpeaks have given me coupons to hand out to my readers.  I have 3 coupons for a free full-sized bottle of any flavor Torani syrup.  You can find Torani at most US retail outlets, on the Torani website and even on Amazon.   So how do you get one of these coupons?  Simple.  Just post a comment on this post telling me WHAT your favorite flavor would be and HOW you would use it.  Check out the full list of Torani flavors first for some inspiration.  I'll leave comments open until the end of the month and then will pick 3 winners by random number generator.  Good luck!

Finally, as a special gift for all of you that aren't in the lucky 3 winners, Torani is offering my readers 10% off any Torani Flavor order online!!  Check them out!!

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***Discloser, I was given two full-sized bottle of Torani to review by SheSpeaks.  You can read my review on the Peppermint Flavored syrup HERE.***

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fabulous FOUR!

I cannot even begin to comprehend how FOUR YEARS could have possibly passed by so incredibly quickly....it seems like just yesterday that we were trying to figure out this whole parenting thing (and truth be told, we still are....we are just better at faking it).

Four years ago today we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy after only 2 hrs and 38 mins of labor (yes you read that correctly...you can read the whole birth story here if you are interested).  We chose not to find out the sex of our first baby, and we were so excited when Max came into our lives.

The transformation that has happened over the course of the last four years is AMAZING to witness.  Being in the thick of it, I don't think you notice it as much as when you step back and really analyze everything that has changed...
Minutes old.

Lil Max was born in a rush.  He took his time getting ready, but once he was ready...he was READY.  Wow has this ever translated to other events in his life:  rolling over, crawling, walking...just about EVERY single milestone of his he took his time doing...but when he did do it, he took off RUNNING...literally.  Lesson learned:  it may take Max awhile to try new things, but once he tries them, watch OUT!
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Lil Max snuggles with Mommy minutes after his entrance to the world.

From the very beginning, lil Max has showed a strong preference for Mommy.  He is quite the Mommy's boy, that is for sure.  I sure don't mind, though.  He is a lover, full of empathy (he gets really upset whenever Sam gets hurt), full of concern for taking care of the Earth (love it), and just a good soul overall.  I hope he stays like this forever!

1 year old

He's a ham.  It might take him a little while to warm up to a situation, but once he's warm (and ready to go) watch out!!  The smile on this kid is infectious!! (and so is his laugh).

2 years old


It has been so remarkable to watch him grow and learn before our very eyes.  To watch the chub in his cheeks melt away....leaving a lean little boy.  Gone are the days where I could refer to him as 'baby', 'little' or 'toddler'.  He is ALL BOY now.

3 years old

He knows all his letters, his numbers, his shapes, his colors.  He can write his own name and spell quite a few words.  He understands left from right, up and down, etc.  He can identify the first letter of many words as he tries to sound them out.  He resists me when I try to ask him to read things...but as I've learned before, once he decides he's ready I know he'll take off full force.

He loves all things space-related, rockets, planets, stars.  He loves to use our iPad with Daddy to identify the stars he can see in the sky from our back windows.
4 years old

He loves to 'help' - whether that be baking in the kitchen with mom, cleaning up the house (vacuuming, dusting, etc), raking leaves outside, digging holes, etc.  He loves to be busy.

He loves 'treats' -- asking for something almost the minute he wakes up.  He gets spoiled by his grandparents with candies and cookies and he has a sweet tooth just like mommy.  He LOVES anything black licorice and big Max has started bringing him home 'salted fish' from Denmark (fish that taste like black licorice) and he LOVES it.
4 years old

He also loves watching TV, but I do not.  So we sometimes argue about how much TV we get to watch.  He has such an active imagination that I would rather cater to that than to have him veg out in front of the TV.  He loves doing worksheets, coloring, playing with playdoh, etc.  He also LOVES puzzles (he mastered doing puzzles when he was only 2 years old!) and board games too.  He is so expressive and can't hide his emotions too well.  But, he is also a huge goofball and is so much fun to be around!
4 years old
He still sleeps 11-12 hours at night and most days he takes a good nap (he has been trying to get out of his nap lately at school...but he takes 3-4 hr naps for me at home still so I know he's not ready to give it up yet...).  He almost always wakes up in a good mood...and ready to greet the day (neither Max nor I are morning people so this is NOT very amusing, LOL).

One of the thing we hear most frequently out of his mouth is "I love you".  Sometimes he is saying it manipulatively (trying to get something).  But most times, he is just so overwhelmed with his emotions that this is how he expresses it.  When he is super happy or super excited about something, it usually results in him exclaiming that he loves someone or something.  He has taken quite a few people by surprise by blurting this out about them....teachers, friends, etc.  I think it is endearing.
4 years old (isn't this the most PRECIOUS picture EVER??)

He loves his baby brother most of all and takes a lot of pride in being 'the big brother'.  His teacher at school has told me that on days when Max is having a hard time, they like to talk about Sam because it almost always puts him in a good mood.  He likes to talk about the day when he and Sam can share a room...  I love that these two are growing up so close.  They really do LOVE each other and it is so sweet to watch the two of them together.
Max - 4 years old; Sam - 18 mos old

What can I say?  I know I am completely biased, but this kid is AWESOME.  He is so incredibly special and wonderful and naughty and opinionated and imaginative...all rolled into one little tiny body (he still only weighs 34 lbs!).  He stole my heart the minute he was born...and I still love him with all my heart today.  I am a blessed person to have him in my life, and I thank God everyday and every minute that I get to spend with him.

So, my dearest Son, happiest of birthdays to you this year!  4 seems like such a milestone...only I know next year when you turn 5 I will feel the same way.  I wouldn't change a single thing about you .... not even on your naughtiest day.  You teach me patience, you teach me to slow down, you teach me how to love wholly and completely and with all of my heart.  You are an amazing little boy and I am SO LUCKY to be your momma.  XOXO 

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Max's Birth Story

As I was busy prepping my blog post for Max's fourth birthday which is TOMORROW, I realized that Max's birth story was posted on my OLD BLOG...which is no longer functioning.  I had a bit of a heart attack as I searched and searched for the electronic copy of what I had written...only to find it was NOWHERE TO BE FOUND.  I could find the version of his birth story that big Max had written....but no such luck for mine.

I was hyperventilating.  I was tearing the house apart.  I was pulling my hair out.  And, yes.  I was crying.

I emailed a few friends who shared my pain.

And then, THEN, on a whim...I checked my Google Reader, where I still 'subscribe' to the old blog even though if I clicked through to the website nothing would happen.  And there, nestled nicely underneath the blog post was all the text and pictures I had posted.  Of course, I immediately copy and pasted everything to a WORD doc.  Disaster averted.  Breathing returned to normal (but head still hurting from crying...am I the only one who gets a headache from crying?)

And so that it is not lost in purgatory forever, in memory of that awesome and chaotic 2 hrs and 38 mins of my life, I am re-posting his birth story here.  Enjoy!  :)

Max's official 'due date' was Nov 11, 2007. My doctor was SURE I'd go before or on my due date -- I had been 2cm dilated and 50% effaced since Oct 24th, and by Nov 7th, I was up to 3 cm and 50% effaced. When he still hadn't come by the 14th, I was sent to the hospital for a non-stress test -- an ultrasound where they look at levels of amniotic fluid, heartrate, etc. The technician said that everything looked fine -- and baby just really wanted to hang out for a little bit longer... As each day passed by, I kept getting more and more bummed out -- my doctor had made me schedule an induction for the 18th - and I really REALLY wanted to go naturally. So, I kept praying that the baby would make its own way into the world.

For the entire week leading up to his actual birth, I did EVERYTHING to try to get things moving. I ate spicy foods, pineapple, eggplant, went on a 3 mile walk every day, foot massages, back massages, etc. Nothing seemed to be working. I would have irregular contractions (or what I supposed were contractions -- they really felt more like gas pains) for a couple of days leading up to his birth -- but they'd always stop when I switched position.

When Saturday rolled around, (the 17th) I had already given in to the likelihood that I would NOT be going into labor on my own. I was really sad about it, I really didn't want to be medicated -- I wanted to try to do everything naturally.

Saturday night, we joined up with a group of our friends at the Wentz's for tacos and movies. I ate my fill, and we left early to try to get some sleep before the busy day we had ahead of us. I remember thinking how weird it was that in less than a day, our little family would be going from 2 to 3! Somehow, I managed to fall asleep, but I kept waking up with irregular contractions -- 'gas pains'. They weren't real close together, or regular, or even painful, so I never even mentioned them to Max. I kept trying to time them, but I kept falling asleep in between! I guess I wasn't too worried. At 1:44 am, I rolled over and 'POP' I felt my water break. I leapt out of bed -- as nimbly as a pregnant woman can -- and ran to the bathroom where I proceeded to yell to Max that it 'was time'. He rolled over in bed and joked "you couldn't wait until 7 am (when we were scheduled to be induced)?" He called the doctor while I attempted to shower -- unfortunately, I had barely gotten damp when the contractions started coming one on top of the other -- and I freaked out. I yelled to Max that we had to go, NOW.





We rushed to the hospital -- easy to do at 2am when no one is on the road. We began timing the contractions on the way there -- and they were already 2-3 mins apart. That should've been our first indication about how quickly things were about to happen.

The rest seemed like a whirlwind to me. Checking in, going straight to a birthing suite. We had brought my Ipod along to have music during the labor and I remember Max turning it on and hitting play without selecting the playlist and "Doin It" by LL Cool J came on -- highly inappropriate!! :)

Then everything really was a blur. There was no time to remember all the techniques we had learned in class. As soon as I was hooked up to the monitors, there was a bit of worry because the baby's heartrate was low. So, they had to insert an internal fetal monitor. I had always intended to deliver without medication, if possible. At one point I told Max that maybe I would go with the epidural. The nurse informed me it was too late -- I was going to need to push already!! I'm glad I was prepared to go au natural! Otherwise, I think that would've come as quite a shock to me. The pushing was actually a relief compared to the contractions. I remember so MANY people standing around the foot of the delivery bed, and people talking/worrying about the low heart rate. At that point, rather than worry about those things, I closed my eyes and talked to the baby and willed him/her to come safely. I shut out the rest of the world and resigned to do the job I was there to do. Max stood at the head of the bed, holding my hand, stroking my head. My mom stood right next to me and at one point I remember her saying to me during the middle of a push "pretend like you are at Bally's (the gym)" I swiftly told her to be quiet -- I don't think pushing a baby out is QUITE like being at the gym!! :) Baby was having a little bit of difficulty and because of the low heartrate they decided to use a vacuum to help during the last push.

Less than 2 hours after arriving at the hospital, Maxwell Louis McLaughlin entered the world. My eyes had been squeezed shut during all the pushing, but I opened them when he came out and saw this beautiful purple/pink wrinkled body and screaming mouth! I couldn't see if the baby was a boy or a girl, and my mom turned to Max and squealed -- do you see what the baby is? He proudly proclaimed...its a BOY!! It felt like we were in a movie.

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I didn't get to hold my baby boy right away like I had wanted. He was whisked over to the warming lamps to have his vitals checked -- his heart rate had been very low -- they suspected that the cord had been partly wrapped around his neck. Luckily, he was completly healthy and fine -- he scored a 9 on the APGAR. And, shortly thereafter he was in my arms -- and I couldn't remember what it felt like for him to NOT be there anymore. I felt complete.

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Our perfect, beautiful baby boy. Named Maxwell after his daddy, and Louis after his uncle, grandpa and Great-grandpa. My little Prince.

Maxwell Louis McLaughlin
Nov 18, 2007, 4:22 am
7 lbs 2 oz.
19.8 inches
2 hrs 38 mins of labor (as one friend joked afterwards: "I've had longer waits in the drive-through!")


The nurses and doctors at the hospital told me that for my next baby -- I should book a room at the hospital ahead of time!! We're lucky we made it on time to the hospital!!!

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Perfectly Perfect.  LOVE this boy.